Tuesday, 2nd January, 2018

Pizza and Pasta

Pizza and pasta are two of the most popular items to order for both eat in and takeaway, both fully customisable with an array of toppings to suit all tastes and dietary requirements.

Mintel say that ‘digital innovation and authentic dishes made from simple and fresh ingredients are transforming pizza and pasta into a destination business’ they say this has been aided by the expansive store presence of leading players.

Industry leaders such as Papa Johns, Domino’s and Pizza Hut, as well as Italian casual dining brand Bella Italia have all expanded this year thanks to the versatility of the pizza and pasta industry and the rise of online ordering and home delivery. 

“The Pizza Delivery and Takeaway industry has expanded rapidly over the past five years,” say data analysts IBISWorld, buoyed they say by increasing consumer preference for convenience and affordability. 

Despite a spending squeeze between 2012 and 2017 in the eating out industry, with people opting to stay in rather than eat out, IBISWorld noted the rise of industry operators who capitalised on this ‘by launching aggressive advertising campaigns and a series of promotional deals to entice consumers’ which helped buoy the industry. 

According to food delivery giant Deliveroo pasta has seen an uplift in orders of 74% in 2017 and pizza has experienced an increase of a huge 106% over the same period. 

Scope for NPD

“Other ways to increase the frequency of eating pizza include catering more for lunch and snacking occasions, and expanding beyond the traditional Italian-originating approach to the dish,” says Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. 

“A greater variety of bases, sauces and toppings - including those influenced by world cuisines. all offer scope for NPD.”

‘Big five’ supermarket Sainsbury’s recently announced the sale of fresh, hot takeaway pizzas as they attempt to take a slice of the lucrative takeaway pizza industry – a sign perhaps that attitudes towards takeaways are changing and that the convenience of ready-made pizza is surpassing the desire to cook at home.

And pizza venues are popping up thick and fast, popular London based pizzeria Four Hundred Rabbits celebrates pizza and everything it encompasses their customers love their authentic sourdough pizzas, which are served in laid back surroundings alongside a selection of craft beers.  Their popularity lies in the time they have taken to perfect their Napoli inspired recipes, co-founder Daniel Edwards says; “We take an awful lot of care and attention to the sourdough we use for our pizzas. They ferment for a minimum of 48 hours, and are made only with wild yeast.

“The slow rise process results in a great depth of flavour to the base. What we top our pizzas with is equally important. Our tomatoes are ‘San Marzano DOP’ which are pretty much the best tomatoes you can buy.

“I think they love the innovation to what we sell as well.”

“Pizza’s hard to beat when it comes to ticking all the boxes for a popular on-the-go food item – a satisfying and relatively inexpensive menu choice, great for all day parts,” says Stuart Jackson of Pan Artisan. 

“The versatility afforded by a myriad of topping options means all occasions can be catered for, including breakfast, and specific dietary requirements satisfied.  Pizza by the slice offers a super-convenient, grab and go choice and pizza served whole presents a perfect sharing dish whilst socialising.”

Takeaway vs Dine-In

Another popular London based pizzeria is Yard Sale Pizza, which was born out of three friends’ shared passion for simple, good pizza.  Beginning life in Clapton, London they now operate three stores across East and North London.

On the popularity of pizza and why it continues to ‘rule’ as king of the takeaway Co-Founder & MD Johnnie Tate says; “I think it’s pretty simple… everyone loves pizza!”

“Ever since my family holidays to visit my aunt in Naples pizza has been my favourite food. One of my business partners is a passionate chef and as a team we’ve always wanted to do our own thing,” adds Johnnie.

Using the freshest ingredients, Yard Sale offer their customers stone-baked pizzas for dine-in, takeaway or delivery and have seen mixed results regarding the popularity of takeaway vs dine-in. 

“We do a big mix of dine in, takeaway and delivery across all our sites. Clapton does the most delivery whilst Walthamstow does the most dine in.
“We only use our own dedicated in house delivery service. This allows us to ensure a quality pizza experience from dough to door!”

Health Concerns

Like pizza the way in which pasta is enjoyed is changing and health and diet conscious consumers is impacting this change. Mintel say that in the UK nearly a quarter of adults are actively limiting their carbohydrate intake for health reasons, while one fifth regularly substitute rice, pasta and noodles with vegetables in the style of carbohydrates like spaghetti, for example. 

Jodie Minotto, global food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “Health concerns over carbohydrate intake continue to plague sales of pasta, especially in Italy where retail sales have been in constant decline every year since 2009.

“The rising popularity of protein and the resurgence of low carb diets have made for a challenging environment for pasta, which is being shunned in favour of foods perceived to be healthier or more supportive of weight management efforts. New product development centred on positive nutrition and tapping into the ongoing interest in gluten-free food will help to polish pasta’s image.”

Gordon Lauder of Central Foods says; “The free-from market is huge and growing all the time. Coeliac UK estimates that there are now over 1.3 million Britons or 3% of British adults following a gluten-free diet.

“In addition, 8.58 million, or 13%, are avoiding gluten in their diet, so it’s hardly surprising that we are seeing an increase in demand for gluten-free items.”

In response to demand, Central Foods has recently launched individual portions of cooked, gluten-free penne pasta, which are also dairy free and suitable for vegans and vegetarians. “These are proving particularly convenient for chefs and foodservice operators to use either hot with a sauce, or cold in a salad,” adds Gordon.  “And cross contamination within the kitchen is reduced because each portion is individually wrapped, with zero wastage.

“Outlets should capitalise on this by providing diners with gluten-free options of Italian favourites like pizza and pasta to help entice further Italian cuisine consumption.”


• Paul Rayment, Business Development Manager, Papa John’s
• Johnnie Tate, Co-founder, Yardsale Pizza
• Stuart Jackson, Director of Sales, Pan’Artisan Ltd
• Craig Brayshaw, Director of sales, Eurilait
• Daniel Edwards, Co-Founder, Four Hundred Rabbits
• Nigel O’Donnell, Managing Director, Meadow Vale
• Michelle Stapleton, Brand Manager, Big Al’s Foodservice
• Gordon Lauder, Managing Director, Central Foods
• John Marks, Menumaster Brand Manager, Nisbets
• Steve Hemsil, Sales Director for UK & Ireland for Welbilt
• Deliveroo

What role do pizza and pasta play in the food-to-go/quick service restaurant industry?

“There’s no denying the popularity of Italian cuisine, consistently voted the UK’s favourite choice several years in a row,” begins Craig Brayshaw of Eurilait.  “The latest NPD Group forecast predicts one of the strongest increases likely to be the Pizza/Italian sector within quick service restaurants, with visits set to rise 3.5% from 0.24 billion in 2016 to 0.25 billion in 2017 and a further 3.5% to 0.26 billion in 2018. 

“Savills Research report ‘Casual Dining in the UK 2016’ also cites Italian and pizza as the most prolific of all casual dining cuisines, with a combined offer accounting for 45% of all branded restaurants,” adds Craig. 

“As a subsidiary of two leading and highly experienced French dairy cooperatives (Laita and Eurial), Eurilait is able to offer an extensive range of dairy goods to provide menu options for a variety of foodservice sectors and levels, within the industry.”

“Authentic, regionally specific food is a great cuisine trend and Italian cuisine is particularly popular,” agrees Michelle Stapleton of Big Al’s Foodservice.  “The Italian food and drink market has grown exponentially in the UK over recent years, with pizza and pasta restaurants gracing high streets across the UK. It is a cuisine known for traditional tastes and style and the versatility of how it can be consumed is proving how hungry the UK is for Italian food.

“A Research and Markets report forecasts the global pizza market to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 3.68% over 2016 – 2020,” adds Michelle. 

“This is arguably down to pizza consumption steadily growing as an on-the-go choice, as well as a sit-down, dining option. Italian cuisine, particularly the pizza sector was set to rise 3.5% between 2016 and 2017 and then a further 3.5% between 2017 and 2018 within quick service restaurants (NPD Group).”

Indeed pizza is playing an increasingly important role in the quick service market place.  “Papa John’s has well over 350 stores across the UK and over 5,000 stores in more than 40 international markets and territories and we continue to expand rapidly following increasing customer demand,” says   Paul Rayment of Papa John’s Pizza. 

He adds; “This year we have had a record number of stores opening in the UK and growth is not only confined to the UK, but we are expanding in Europe as well as across the world.”

Pizza consumption has been steadily gaining growth, both as a perfect on-the-go choice and as a sociable sit down sharing option, and the popularity of pizza continues its upward trend. 

“A Research and Markets report forecasts the ‘global pizza market to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 3.68% during the period of 2016-2020’ and informs that openings can be found in NPD, especially where pizza toppings are concerned, foreseeing an opportunity for ‘pizza manufacturers to introduce bold flavoured pizza varieties for customers to increase their market reach,” says Stuart Jackson, Pan’Artisan. 

Although all demographics and age groups enjoy pizza, it seems Millennials (those aged between 18 and 35 years old) are the main consumer group of pizza. 

“A 2016 survey by Aviva health insurers found the UK’s younger generation order pizza-to-go up to ten times a month, that’s twice as often as consumers aged 55 and older,” adds Stuart. “The likes of Deliveroo and Just Eat have made access to ready-to-eat food easy; according to NPD Group the delivery sector grew by almost 10% to 599 million visits in the UK during 2016, while total visits to restaurants and other dining venues increased by just 1%.”

“Gourmet fast food has been highlighted as one of the key trends of recent times and this could include pizza,” adds Gordon Lauder.

“Unusual gourmet toppings on pizzas could be one way that outlets differentiate their pizza offering from their competitors – encouraging customers to come back to your outlet time and again.

Gordon suggests; “Instead of traditional rocket, why not add nettles or dandelion leaves, which taps into the meadow savoury flavour trend, or the more adventurous might like to try adding insects as a topping. The idea of insects as a cheap, plentiful source of protein, which are already a staple ingredient in many parts of the world, is gaining traction in the West as climate change and sustainability issues climb higher up the ladder of social concerns, so it’s definitely an ingredient to watch.”

“Other gourmet pizza toppings might be cured or aged meats, and not just beef but also chicken and fish, and smoked ingredients from vegetables, like beetroot, and meat to spices. Pizzas can be pimped up with truffle shavings, or even a drizzle of truffle oil, avocado – grilled for a touch of smoke flavour – or even nori and other seaweeds.
“All these add flavour - the all-important fifth sense: umami or ‘deliciousness’, texture and something different – which can be the catalyst for attracting new customers and giving them reasons to return,” concludes Gordon. 

What is driving the continued popularity of pizza and pasta in the food-to-go/quick service restaurant sector? 

The snacking market is expected to increase by £5.6b to £21.7b over the next five years (IGD) and the Italian Pizza Twists will help operators tap into this opportunity.

“Big Al’s is conscious the food market is changing; customers have less time and are increasingly in search of food that fits with their busy lifestyles,” adds Michelle Stapleton. 

“Big Al’s Pizza Twists are ready in less than three minutes from frozen, and require no build time. They are suitable on their own as a snack as well as forming part of a bigger meal, with optional sides like chips or wedges and even a drink as part of a meal deal.”

As the availability of high quality world food broadens, consumers have become more educated in their choice of cuisine.  Regarding the Italian food offer, pizza and pasta remain very popular, yet demand for more authentic and region specific options is increasing.

“Operators would do well to pay close attention to recipe authenticity and the provenance of ingredients used to satisfy their increasingly savvy customers,” says Craig Brayshaw.

“Italy is famous for its food culture; it is a key part of its identity.  Regional dishes abound where the quality and seasonality of ingredients are revered and celebrated.  In total, there are twenty regions in Italy, each with distinct characteristics, and this is reflected in the regional food produced. 

“The geographical and climatic differences determine the ingredients used from area to area, as Italians will always prefer to use locally sourced, seasonal produce.

Karla Rendle, Euromonitor Research Analyst says; “While options for ‘better’ pizzas have been available for some time in the main stream pizza foodservice, it is the niche back to basics style chains which emphasize the notion of guilt free pizzas that we expect to see more of a trend for. 

“As UK consumers are already used to quality authentic pizza’s they won’t be willing to pay a premium for a chain unless there is the additional offering in terms of ethical and ecological standing.”

Cooking is an integral part of Italian daily life and even the simplest pasta dish will have been made with passion and great care taken over the chosen ingredients. 

“This kind of attitude is steadily trickling into our way of approaching what we eat here in the UK, as we see a rise in consumer interest regarding provenance, quality and freshness,” adds Craig. 

“The image of pizza is changing, once categorized as junk food, now a growing number of artisanal pizza brands that specialise in wood-fired, Neapolitan style pizza concepts and focus on a healthier, gourmet pizza offering are becoming increasingly popular.”

From Papa John’s point of view, our focus on BETTER INGREDIENTS.  BETTER PIZZA. is driving the popularity.  “It means we only use the freshest ingredients and fresh dough – never frozen – for a better flavour,” explains Paul Rayment.  “We deliver a top-quality product combined with excellent service and people keep coming back for more! 

“Time pressures mean people want tasty food delivered at their convenience, it’s also a treat for the whole family and we cater for the growing marketplace that values quality.”

For Four Hundred Rabbits the use of fresh ingredients and a perfected recipe is the most important aspect of the pizzeria experience.  “We have tried pretty much every single pizza in London (some of these are regarded as outposts of the best pizzerias in the world),” explains owner Daniel Edwards

“Some were very good, but most were quite dull if I am honest. I suppose it all comes down to personal preference, but most of these places (some which are very highly regarded, but we found really did not live up to expectation) were just stodgy white flour bases that had not been proved for long enough, the result was always disappointing, especially when the toppings were bog standard Italian salami. We always came away feeling bloated, and desperate to drink water due to how much salt they added to their dough.”

Daniel adds; “We took all this and developed a sourdough which is crisp on the outside, and has a beautiful deep sourdough flavour and texture on the inside. Our Mozzarella is produced for us in Peckham by an artisan producer, and is literally as fresh as it can possibly be (when fiordilatte mozzarella is not fresh, it is really not very good).

“These two elements, coupled with the San Marzano DOP tomatoes that we use, we think all combine to make the best pizza we have tasted. We then use this to build on with our innovative, seasonal toppings to create something that is very different to most generic Italian pizzerias.”

What equipment is available to operators thinking of introducing pizza to their menus?

John Marks, Menumaster Brand Manager for Nisbets Plc explains; “Pizza remains a popular choice with customers but not every outlet wants, or needs, a full blown pizza oven to ensure they make the most of this sales opportunity.

“It is for exactly this reason that utilising a product that can cook pizza, but which does so much more, can very often help to provide flexibility to the operator and helps to ensure that orders don’t build up, particularly during busy periods.  One such versatile, piece of catering equipment, is the Menumaster High Speed Combi Microwave available from Nisbets.

“The Menumaster High Speed Combi Microwave offers an extremely powerful catering solution that operates as both a convection oven and a microwave, allowing operators to cook quickly and frequently without compromising the quality of customers’ meals, so that customers aren’t kept waiting, even during peak times,” adds John. 

“This makes it ideal for preparing a wide variety of traditional or on-trend street-food style hot snacks, including pizza, ensuring operators can create a varied menu filled with good quality quick serve options,” concludes John. 

Steve Hemsil, Sales Director for UK & Ireland for Welbilt adds; “Traditional pizzerias with highly trained chefs will most likely use traditional stone and brick ovens. However, this can be time consuming and can offer a limited output which is not capable of withstanding a larger establishment’s demands.

“Another option is a deck oven which can greatly increase the capacity of an operation but also requires staff with a high skill set to operate the unit.  This is one of the reasons that conveyor ovens are hugely popular within the industry as they are specifically designed to produce large volumes of pizzas to a consistent quality time and again. Not only do they solve the capacity issue, they are also the ideal choice for kitchens requiring equipment which is simple to operate. The simple operating system of our Lincoln Impinger conveyor ovens means that staff with varying skillsets can use the oven and still achieve a consistent quality finished product. 

“These are more suited to this environment due to their small footprint and speed in which they can cook the product – an essential quality for these ‘grab and go’ style menus.”

What are the latest trends in the pizza and pasta market? 

“While pepperoni and the classic margarita pizza remain a staple for any pizza menu we are seeing consumers lean towards more adventurous options with us seeing greater demand for our Tandoori and Chicken tikka pizza toppings,” says Nigel O’Donnell of Meadow Vale Foods.

“We are also seeing chicken sharing boxes which can accompany the pizza being very on trend, this will largely include items such as the mini fillet, wings and nugget, which you can then further diverse this by offering a boneless sharing box and classic sharing box.”

“Don’t forget to ensure that there are gluten-free pasta and pizza options available on the menu to cater for the increasing number of customers who have specific dietary requirements,” advises Gordon Lauder, MD of frozen food distributor Central Foods. “Demand for gluten-free pizza bases has shot up in recent times. If all the 12-inch gluten-free pizza bases sold by Central Foods in 2016 were laid end-to-end it would measure 250 times the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

“Including gluten-free pizza options on menus gives operators the opportunity to pick up additional sales, while at the same time providing customers who avoid gluten with the chance to eat pizza alongside their dining companions,” adds Gordon.

“Pizza remains a very popular menu item – it’s tasty, versatile and reasonably quick to prepare, especially if chefs use frozen dough balls or pizza bases. Of course, it’s also ideal for both the food-to-go and the quick service restaurant market, which is another reason why more venues have introduced pizzas to their menus.”
Papa John’s have recently launched their ‘Papa’s Deep Crust’.  Now available nationwide, the new deep crust pizza offers an appetite-satisfying feasting experience thanks to a new dough recipe which results in a thicker, mouth-watering cheese crust.

“The specially formulated recipe features a buttery, seared crust for a fuller flavour and a light and fluffy deeper dough, almost double the depth of regular Papa John’s pizzas cooked in a specially designed pan, to offer an even more indulgent taste than before,” says Paul Rayment.

“A new recipe tomato sauce has also been created, using Californian vine-ripened tomatoes which go from field to can in six hours. Added to this is a blend of signature spices and extra virgin olive oil which are then reduced to create a richer tasting sauce, complementing the new thicker base perfectly. 
“Each pizza is then completed with all the favourite pizza toppings, including fresh “store cut” vegetables.”

Of course cheese plays an integral role in Italian cuisine as an ingredient, topping or garnish for a variety of dishes.  Eurilait, one of the UK’s major suppliers of high quality, speciality cheese and dairy produce, has seen an increased interest in continental cheeses, especially blues and soft Italian cheeses.
In fact, Kantar Worldpanel statistics show growth of mozzarella over 15% in the 52 weeks to January 2017, with Gorgonzola showing growth of 2.4%.

“Eurilait offers exclusive distribution of the premium Italian alpine cheese brand, Brimi; the range includes Mozzarella, Mascarpone and Ricotta,” adds Craig Brayshaw. “100% of the milk used to make Brimi’s cheeses come from traditional mountain dairy farms situated high in the mountainous Alpine region of South Tyrol, Northern Italy.

“For these farmers, guaranteeing excellence and meeting high quality standards is deeply rooted in tradition; farms are mostly small with just eight cows on average and the cattle are bred with passion, raised under completely natural conditions and treated with respect,” adds Craig. 

“The wonderfully light and pure flavour in these soft cheeses is captured from the unique characteristics of clean mountain air, pure water and alpine grasses.”

In season

With sustainable seasonal ingredients at the forefront of many operators’ minds, Four Hundred Rabbits very carefully select their ingredients – something that more and more food outlets are also concentrating on. 

“Food that is in season generally tastes much better than something that has been heat grown in a poly tunnel,” adds Daniel Edwards of Four Hundred Rabbits.  “We think that the UK grows some of the most interesting, flavoursome products. Like cobnuts, which we turn into a pesto, or Blue pumpkins, which are in season right now, and have such a nice flavour to them.

“Our pizzas celebrate what is best about what we do in London, and the UK, rather than flying something over from Italy, which has gone through a lengthy process to get to us, and has environmentally damaging air miles attached to it, we would much rather use something grown and picked right here in the UK.”